Windjammer Barefoot Cruises S/V Legacy by Lee Wurschmidt Bahamas July 11, 2003
Two of my grandchildren, Jake (11) and Hannah (8), and I sailed on the tall ship Legacy to islands in the Bahamas for a week. My overall impressions were that my dealings with the main office before the trip were some of my worst experiences and the cruise, itself, was one of the best.
When I first called the 800 number from a magazine advertisement to inquire about the cost of a cruise for the three of us I was told that we could have a quad cabin for $850 each for two of us and that Hannah would be free. I decided to go with it and had my travel agent make the reservation. A few weeks later I learned that Hannah would be dancing in a competition with dates in conflict with the cruise dates. I was told that it would cost $45 each to change to the July dates for our trip. I had never encountered a fee for making a change several months ahead before; but the kids were looking forward to the trip so I agreed to the fee. When I asked for an itemized statement I found that I had been charged nearly $700 more than the quoted price. When I objected I was told this was because the quad cabin would not be suitable for us and that we had been put in a honeymoon cabin. I arranged for hotel and air reservations based upon a departure from the pier in West Palm Beach according to the information I was given. A few weeks later I learned that the ship would sail from Miami instead of West Palm Beach. Luckily my $975 plane tickets were for a flight to Fort Lauderdale; therefore, still useable. The nonrefundable hotel; however, was now useless. By this time I was wishing I had never planned this trip. I made new hotel reservations near the airport. When I read that we should let Windjammer know about any special dietary needs I called the company and requested that there be skim milk available, as I do not drink coffee, tea, or alcoholic beverages. I was assured that there would be skim milk, as I was not the only person who would like it. I do not believe my request went any further than the person who answered the phone as the appropriate person on the ship had not heard of the request and there was not even 2% milk on the ship, much less nonfat.
After my less than desirable contacts with the Windjammer offices I was not sure about what to expect when we headed off for our vacation. The flight went relatively smoothly and the hotel was nice. The taxi from Fort Lauderdale to the Port of Miami was $60 for the three of us. We sat in the terminal from noon when we arrived until about 4:00 PM when they began processing. (Warning: If you are bringing minor children who are not your own be sure to have a notarized permission form signed by both parents in addition to the usual picture Identification.) Since the maximum number of passengers is only 120 the processing went quickly and we were soon on the ship. The captain gave us a short safety talk and welcomed us aboard after which we were escorted to our cabin by a very courteous crewmember.
Our cabin on upper deck was very small, but nicely appointed with a full double bed and another narrow bunk that folded down from the wall and hung from ropes to the ceiling. There was a padded bench to sit on when the bunk was folded up to the wall, but no seating when the bunk was down. The double bed had a wood frame that was very attractive, but made sitting on the edge of the bed most uncomfortable since the mattress sat lower than the top of the frame. The bed was comfortably firm. I had no trouble getting into it, but by the end of the week I had many bruises on the back of my thighs from getting out of it. There was a small, but adequate closet and both sides of the bed had a shelf for small items as well as nice reading lights. The bunk had no shelf or reading light; it didn't even have sheets the first night. There were several conveniently placed hooks on the walls. The bathroom was the largest that I have ever had on a cruise, in fact it was as large as mine at home. It had neither medicine cabinet nor storage for personal items except a small shelf above the sink and a towel shelf. There were no towel bars that the kids could reach, but there was one up high on the edge of the towel shelf. There was a handy clothesline for drying bathing suits. (Tip: Be sure to bring at least one beach towel as you are asked not to take the ship's towels from the cabin.) It had efficient air conditioning at floor level and a large window over the bed. I did not see the inside of any of the cabins on lower decks, but from conversations I heard I came to the conclusion that this was one of the nicest cabins on the ship. Several repeat passengers had tried unsuccessfully to get one of the honeymoon cabins. There were no telephones, TVs, or clocks in the cabins. Cabins were cleaned once a day during the morning.
Unlike most cruise ships, almost all activity is on the outdoor decks. The only interior public areas are the dining saloon and the junior jammers lounge. Deck A is the bottom deck consisting only of cabins. Deck B is the quarterdeck where the activities office and Sea Chest (ship's store) are located. The saloon and junior jammers lounge are also on this deck as is the whiteboard where the schedule for the day is posted. Deck C, the upper deck, is the heart of the ship. The bar and the canvas covered deck area are located here. There is seating and small tables. Entertainment, buffets, and general hanging out with a good book and a cool drink happen in the shaded area on the upper deck. At night it is lighted. On both ends of the ship are higher decks that are open to the sun and fitted with deck cushions and lounge chairs. On nice nights many passengers bring their pillows and blankets up to sleep out in the open on these highest decks. All decks are connected by several staircases so that traffic flows easily from one to another. There are no elevators.
There were plenty of opportunities to eat. The food was generally tasty, but no one would confuse it with a gourmet restaurant. Early in the morning sticky buns, coffee, and bloody Marys were available. At 7:30 a full sit down breakfast is available in the saloon. After 8:30 breakfast is serve yourself, buffet style. Omelets and scrambled eggs were among the best of any cruise ship buffet I have encountered. Lunch was always a nice buffet on the upper deck or a picnic on the beach. On beach days, if you did not want to go ashore, there was also a buffet on the ship. About 5:00 PM snacks and rum swizzles were served on upper deck. The snacks were quite substantial. They were the equivalent of another light meal. Both lunch and swizzle time were characterized by an abundance of beautifully presented fresh fruits, meats, cheeses, and other tempting treats. Dinner was either a buffet, beach BBQ, or full sit down four course dining experience served in two open seatings. All were well prepared. I missed my usual nonfat milk, but the water tasted ok. On the days with full sit down dinners, parents could elect to have their children served separately with the junior jammer counselors from a children's menu. Jake and Hannah always elected to eat with the kids and enjoyed their dinners with the group. All meals in the saloon were open seating in booths for ten. In case anyone was still hungry there was another offering of snacks such as popcorn and cookies or fruit and cheese late in the evening. Coffee, tea, and hot chocolate were always available in the saloon. The novelty of being able to have a cup of hot chocolate every evening before bed appealed to Jake and Hannah.
During the busy summer season the Legacy has a children's program called the Junior Jammers. The kids are divided into two groups, 6-12 and teenagers. On our sailing none of the teens opted to participate so that all three counselors worked with about 16 children. The counselors were young adults who got along beautifully with the children. Jake and Hannah enjoyed participating in all of the planned activities. Jake is a good swimmer and did not like being required to wear a life jacket whenever the group went onto the beach or out in a boat. This is the first cruise I have taken with the kids where the children's program is in full operation every day, including port days. They took the children onto the beach, to a zoo, to an aquarium, and to a water park with water slides. There was no charge for the program, but cash was required for the admission fees and a lunch ashore one day. I had not come prepared to pay out so much cash as most ships allow all excursions to be charged to the room account. If you plan to have your child participate in all activities you will need at least $60 in cash per child. Luckily tips can be put on the room account and my cab driver back to Fort Lauderdale was willing to stop at an ATM machine or I would have been in bad shape since I spent all of my cash for the kids programs. In addition to the shore excursions the kids enjoyed helping to pull the ropes to put the sails up and down as needed, steering the ship, several crafts, games, movies, pizza party, and a scavenger hunt. They also made several friends among the other junior jammers. I liked the fact that the children were included in evening activities instead of being relegated to some other status except for the one evening when the game was not appropriate for children. On that occasion the counselors had an activity planned for the children. Children were allowed to participate in the battle of the sexes trivia game, crab races, and in the limbo contest. Jake and Hannah both agreed that this was their favorite cruise that we have taken to date.
There was very little professional entertainment. No casino, floorshows, swimming pools, gym or similar activities. We spent three full days at deserted islands with beautiful beaches. There was no charge for use of kayaks or floats. They were available on a first come first use basis. Snorkeling or diving equipment was available for rent for the week. We had brought our own. Three days we docked in towns where there were optional tours available. Our family opted to do the Snorkel Safari in Bimini. It was $32 for each of us. We had a great time snorkeling from the dive boat at a reef then ate lunch at CJ's Deli ashore where I really liked the deep fried conch. The kids said the hamburgers and milkshakes were good. There were several other tours available, but I stayed aboard and relaxed while the youth counselors took the kids ashore so I don't know if they were a good value. Every evening the "activities mate", Beth, had some type of entertainment planned for the after dinner time. One evening a local man came aboard and put on a limbo show and contest. On other evenings there were sand crab races, games, dancing, Kareoke, and a costume contest. We stayed late in Nassau so several went ashore to have dinner and/or gamble at the casinos there. On one day when the water was calm, with little current, the captain allowed a swim from the ship. Adults and children jumped in from the quarterdeck at one end; swam with the current to the other end of the ship,and climbed up the ladder to do it again. Children had to wear a life vest and there were several crew people posted in the water as life guards. I noticed that the captain was standing next to the life ring. I think it was Jake and Hannah's favorite activity of the week.
STAFF AND CREW
A very big difference between this ship and any other type of cruise is that there was none of the usual strict separation of crew from passengers. There were no separate back stairs for crew use. They ate in the same dining room and freely mixed with the passengers for a relaxed casual feel to the experience. Nearly everyone, including the captain, goes barefoot when aboard the ship. There was also a very blurry line between the duties of the various crew members. On the final day the pursur, children's counselors, and many others were hauling luggage down to the quarter deck to be taken ashore. A cabin steward in the morning might become your dinner server in the evening. One of the servers doubled as a hair braider in her free time, and one of the officers made jewelry for sale. I very much liked the atmosphere that this created.
Although the cruise is advertised as sailing on a tall ship; it is really mostly a motor ship. The fumes from the fuel are very strong on the top decks. The sound and the vibration from the engines was constant in order to run the lights and air conditioning. When we anchored at the deserted islands we were tendered ashore in launches and had to wade ashore. I had a lot of trouble getting back into the launch at the end of the shore time because the round steps hurt my feet too much. Therefore, I only went ashore once. In Nassau we were berthed next to the Disney Wonder. It made our ship seem very small.
Debarkation was very easy. All things considered, I enjoyed the cruise and would do it again. I would insist on written confirmation of everything I was told by anyone in their Miami office as they do not seem to value their word; they seem willing to tell you anything without regard to accuracy.